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Seven Questions to Ask Your Partner About Service Plans

April 18, 2011 - 0 Comments

Guest Post by Contributing Author Ken Presti

With all the interest and decisions around the products and new capabilities involved in your next IT upgrade, it’s easy to have key questions about the service plans slip through the cracks. Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Here are a few suggestions:

Who delivers the services?
In this wild, woolly world of contracting and subcontracting, you can’t necessarily assume that the company that closes the service contract will actually be the one that fulfills that contract. This is especially true if you have facilities in multiple locations. So if subcontractors are involved, you’ll want to know who those subcontractors are, what specializations, certifications, or other qualifications they have in place, and what their customer satisfaction scores look like.

Which organization is the point of contact for engaging the services?
If more than one provider is involved, does one organization serve as the entry point for access to services, or do you have to pinball around until you find the subcontractor who maps to the specific need?

What level of vendor participation (if any) is involved?
Some vendors (equipment manufacturers) are more involved in the delivery of services than others. Therefore, you might get multiple answers to this question, based on which vendors are being used in this particular project. So you’ll want to get as much clarity as possible into what role the vendor plays, and what role the channel partner and/or subcontractors play. At stake is nothing less than your ability to decipher the inevitable finger-pointing in the event that something goes wrong.

What is included in the plan, and what is available at incremental cost?
Sometimes the things that are unspecified in a contract are more important than the things that are actually stated. So you’ll want to drill down into what is covered, and what is not covered. Do the services include assessments, and operational assistance, or merely break/fix? Consider your past use of partner/vendor services, and break it down into component parts. This will help to give you benchmarks with which to navigate that discussion.

Are the services only delivered remotely? What if truck rolls are necessary? Would there be additional charges for truck rolls?
Service providers will deliver as much as they can through remote tools in order to keep their costs in line. Nothing wrong with that, under most circumstances. But what happens if somebody actually needs to get in a truck to visit your facility? Are there additional charges? If so, how much? Okay, I confess this is an extension of the last question about incremental charges. But this one is a biggie, so I’m calling it out separately. And so should you!

How long is the term of the service contract, and what happens upon completion? How is it renewed, assuming it will be?
Does the service contract get automatically renewed at the end of the term, or does the impending expiration get called to your attention, thereby giving you a chance to decide what to do next? What happens to the price of support at the time of renewal? Consider the relative cost. Will it be cheaper to replace the matured device, or does it make sense to continue paying for service?

What are the available response times, and how much do they cost?
When something goes wrong and you need to get it fixed, the sooner the better. This is true. But it’s equally true to say that the sooner you are entitled to service, the more expensive that service contract will be. So get very clear on your service level agreements, and weigh the response times against your specific circumstances and resource levels. Multiple options are generally available. Weigh them carefully.

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